Paul Parker

Mancini’s conundrum

Paul Parker

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Paul Parker fears for Roberto Mancini's future as Manchester City host Liverpool in another six-pointer for the Eastlands big spenders while he is excited about seeing new City signing Mario Balotelli in action against the Reds.

Match of the week: Manchester City v Liverpool

You have got to feel for Roberto Mancini at times. With all the money City have spent the onus is on them to attack, to excite, to be positive.

But with Roy Hodgson in charge, Liverpool are a superior version of Fulham, with similar organisation but better players. They will be very hard to beat and will look to play on the counter.

I think City will find it very, very difficult to break them down and I have a funny feeling Liverpool will nick a win in this game.

Upset of the week: Arsenal v Blackpool

I'm not saying Arsenal will lose this, it's just that the fixture list this weekend doesn't throw up that many possible upsets!

Fulham beating Manchester United at home wouldn't exactly be a shock - they've done it two years running!

All the other games feature evenly-matched teams, unlikely scenarios such as Wigan facing Chelsea, or the weaker teams playing at home - you would hardly say Newcastle are massive underdogs against Aston Villa at St James' Park, nor West Brom at home to Sunderland.  And given current form Wolves could snatch something at Everton.

Can Blackpool go to Arsenal and do what Hull did? Have they got enough to go there with no fear and nick a result, particularly after the 4-0 win at wigan? We know that Arsenal will pass it and pass it - they could be there for the taking.

Player to watch: Mario Balotelli

I think everyone wants to look at him and see what the fuss is all about.

There's the playing side to him - he's a typical African in terms of his physique, explosive power and pace. I think that will suit the English game

But there is a personal side to him - he has a Latin temperament, always liable to explode. That could be a problem.

We know he has a good relationship with Mancini, but how will he rub shoulders with the other big players - and egos - at Eastlands?

If he does play, Carlos Tevez will drop off him, virtually playing 4-4-1-1 at home. And, given Mancini's over-abundance of defensive midfielders, you wonder how positive that will be.

Under pressure: Roberto Mancini

Wigan boss Roberto Martinez has a lot to do after the horror-show defeat to Blackpool, particularly seeing as Wigan won this fixture against Chelsea last season.

But the real pressure will be on Mancini and City as this will be the most scrutinised game of the weekend.

At times Mancini seems like he has been shopping at Tesco, rolling down the aisle chucking stuff in his trolley with his eyes shut.

The first six games of the season will see a lot of pressure on Mancini - how many games can they afford to lose, or even not to win? Two? They've already drawn against Spurs.

The number of holding midfield players he's using, with four possibly in the 25-man squad if he includes Patrick Vieira, is too much. Who will he drop? Vieira? You can't have a man that age in your squad and not use him. And if he keeps him, who does he lose? Gareth Barry?

As I said earlier, the onus is on them to entertain, to attack - and to use £24 million signing Balotelli, who has surely forced his way into the team after scoring in the Europa League. But that means playing Tevez off him, and packing central midfield with defensive players. Is that what the owners want?

I don't think they will give him the chop if they lose this game, but it's hugely important as there is little room to slip up in the first six games.

But after then, if Mancini goes, I feel sorry for the next guy. The onus is on them to win, even if the money hasn't been spent well - or in accordance with the coach's wishes.

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